Taylor Swift – RED (Taylor’s Version) – Review (Vinyl, Streaming Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Dolby Atmos)

After Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Red (Taylor’s Version), released on November 12, 2021, is Taylor Swift’s second re-recorded album on Republic Records. The re-recordings are motivated by the sale of his original label Big Machine Label Group, including all his recordings.

We will review 4 editions (Vinyl, Streaming Qobuz, Streaming Tidal and Streaming Amazon Dolby Atmos Binaural) of this album.

You can find the measurements of each edition in the different parts and listen to the samples of these albums here.

This album includes 30 tracks : 

  1. State of Grace
  2. Red
  3. Treacherous
  4. I Knew You Were Trouble
  5. All Too Well
  6. 22
  7. I Almost Do
  8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
  9. Stay Stay Stay
  10. The Last Time (featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol)
  11. Holy Ground
  12. Sad Beautiful Tragic
  13. The Lucky One
  14. Everything Has Changed (featuring Ed Sheeran)
  15. Starlight
  16. Begin Again
  17. The Moment I Knew
  18. Come Back… Be Here
  19. Girl at Home
  20. State of Grace (acoustic version)
  21. Ronan
  22. Better Man
  23. Nothing New (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)
  24. Babe
  25. Message in a Bottle
  26. I Bet You Think About Me (featuring Chris Stapleton)
  27. Forever Winter
  28. Run (featuring Ed Sheeran)
  29. The Very First Night
  30. All Too Well (10 Minute Version)

First we will analyze each edition in detail (technical and qualitative analysis) then we will compare the successive editions with their dynamics and assign a final score and you will be able to listen some samples.

Review of the editions:

Part 1: Presentation of the editions

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamique comparaison

Parts 3 : Spectrum comparisons

Part 4 : Spectrogram comparaisons

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Sample

Part 1: presentation of the editions

Ed1 : Vinyl ref b0034422-1 – 2021
Presentation

It is a very nice vinyl proposed with 4 LP 45 rpm.

LabelRepublic Records
Referenceb0034422-1
Format (speed)Four LP 45 rpm
TypeVinyl 4 LP
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingPressing in Germany
Original recordingDigital 24-96kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed2 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Qobuz proposed in Hi-Res (24 bits 96kHz).

LabelRepublic Records
ReferenceStreaming Qobuz Hi-Res
Format (speed)Digital
Type24 bits 96 kHz
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-96kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed3 : Streaming Tidal Master – 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Tidal proposed in MASTER MQA (24 bits 96kHz).

LabelRepublic Records
ReferenceStreaming Tidal Master
Format (speed)Digital
TypeMQA 24 bits 96 kHz (encoded in 24/48) decoded in PCM 24/96 for the review
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-96kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed4 : Streaming Amazon Dolby Atmos Binaural – 2021
Presentation

The Streaming Amazon is proposed in Dolby Atmos, reviewed in binaural for headphone listening.

LabelRepublic Records
ReferenceStreaming Amazon Dolby Atmos Binaural
Format (speed)Dolby Atmos
TypeDolby Atmos Binaural
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-96kHz
StateUS
Year original2021
Year production2021

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the tracks of the album.

The two waveform graphs of the vinyl (Ed1) show a good dynamic of the music, with a variation of the signal without level flattening. The waveform of the album is split into two graphs, the first for discs 1 and 2, and the second for discs 3 and 4.

Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl Disc 1 and 2 2021
Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl Disc 3 and 4 2021

The Ed2 Qobuz and the Ed3 Tidal are identical, we find a flattening of the signal related to the compression, the profile of the curve is confirmed by the value of the DR, the average value is DR7.
Each version is divided into two graphs using the same division as for the Ed1 vinyl.

Waveform Ed2 : Qobuz (eq Disc 1 and 2) 2021
Waveform Ed2 : Qobuz (eq Disc 3 and 4) 2021
Waveform Ed3 : Tidal (eq Disc 1 and 2) 2021
Waveform Ed3 : Tidal (eq Disc 3 and 4) 2021

The Ed4 Dolby Atmos binaural signal is closer to the Ed1 vinyl, showing greater dynamics than the stereo streaming versions (Ed2 and Ed3).

Waveform Ed4 : Amazon Atmos Binaural (eq Disc 1 and 2) 2021
Waveform Ed4 : Amazon Atmos Binaural (eq Disc 3 and 4) 2021

Dynamic

Dynamic represents the ability to reproduce a wide range of sounds from the softest to the loudest.

For our 4 editions we have obtained the following Dynamic Range (DR):

 Ed1: VinylEd2: QobuzEd3: TidalEd4: Amazon Atmos binaural
GLOBALDR11DR7DR7DR10
MinDR10DR5DR5DR9
MaxDR12DR10DR10DR12
State of GraceDR10DR6DR6DR11
RedDR11DR6DR6DR11
TreacherousDR11DR6DR6DR10
I Knew You Were TroubleDR11DR7DR8DR11
All Too WellDR10DR5DR5DR9
22DR10DR5DR5DR11
I Almost DoDR11DR7DR8DR11
We Are Never Ever Getting Back TogetherDR12DR6DR7DR12
Stay Stay StayDR12DR8DR8DR12
The Last Time (featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol)DR11DR6DR6DR10
Holy GroundDR11DR6DR6DR10
Sad Beautiful TragicDR12DR9DR9DR10
The Lucky OneDR11DR7DR7DR10
Everything Has Changed (featuring Ed Sheeran)DR11DR6DR6DR10
StarlightDR11DR7DR7DR10
Begin AgainDR11DR7DR7DR11
The Moment I KnewDR11DR6DR6DR10
Come Back… Be HereDR11DR7DR7DR10
Girl at HomeDR11DR5DR5DR9
State of Grace (acoustic version)DR11DR8DR8DR10
RonanDR12DR10DR10DR12
Better ManDR11DR6DR6DR11
Nothing New (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)DR10DR7DR7DR10
BabeDR12DR7DR7DR10
Message in a BottleDR11DR5DR5DR9
I Bet You Think About Me (featuring Chris Stapleton)DR11DR6DR6DR10
Forever WinterDR11DR7DR7DR11
Run (featuring Ed Sheeran)DR11DR6DR6DR11
The Very First NightDR11DR6DR7DR12
All Too Well (10 Minute Version)DR11DR6DR7DR10

The results of the DR (Dynamic Range) measurement is in accordance with the waveform representation of each edition. We find the highest average DR for the Ed1 vinyl with DR11, followed by DR10 for the Ed4 Dolby Atmos Binaural version, and lastly, the digital Stereo editions (ED2 and Ed3) with a DR7 which are always in the loudness war.

As a reminder, the scale goes from 0 to more 20, but the dynamics are considered good from 12, quite good between 10 and 11, and deteriorate below 10.

Part 3 : spectrum comparisons

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the sample “Red”.

For the Ed1 vinyl and the Ed2 Qobuz, we notice a superposition of the response curves until 10 kHz. Beyond that, the vinyl level decreases compared to the digital edition (-5 dB at 20 kHz). The curve shows that the master used is indeed in 96 kHz sampling frequency. There is also a small peak on the vinyl at 20 kHz, and below 40 kHz for the digital version.

Spectrum Ed1 Vinyl (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Qobuz (blue)

For the Ed2 Qobuz and the Ed3 Todal, we notice a superposition of the response curves until 40 kHz. For this piece “RED”, we are well on a master based on a recording made in 96 kHz of sampling frequency. The MQA decoding in 24/96 based on a MQA 24/48 file plays well its role of reconstruction of the spectrum.

Spectrum Ed3 Streaming Tidal (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Qobuz (blue)

The spectrum of the Ed4 Dolby Atmos Binaural is different from the Ed2 Qobuz (yellow arrow), which is normal because of a different mix and the conversion of the Atmos format into binaural.
The green arrow shows the 20 kHz limit of the Dolby Atmos version, this is part of the frequency limit of this format for a bitrate of 768 kbits/s.

Spectrum Ed4 Streaming Amazon Dolby Atmos Binaural (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Qobuz (blue)

Part 4 : Spectrogram comparaisons

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

For the Ed1 vinyl spectrogram, the yellow arrow shows that the music goes beyond the 22 kHz frequency, as the white arrow also shows. A limitation of the vinyl compared to the digital editions is that it is more difficult to distinguish tracks that go little above 22 kHz. This is due to the vinyl playback creating harmonics in the high frequencies.
The black arrow shows the small peak at 20 kHz that was observed on the spectrum.

Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl disc 1 and 2 2021
Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl disc 3 and 4 2021

The spectrogram of the Ed2 Qobuz and Ed3 Tidal are almost identical. We find frequencies (white arrow) which go up well above 22 kHz (yellow arrow). It is indeed a high resolution recording, but it is not fully exploited on all the tracks, as shown by the black arrow and the horizontal black band.

Spectrogram Ed2 : Qobuz (eq disc 1 and 2) 2021
Spectrogram Ed2 : Qobuz (eq disc 3 and 4) 2021
Spectrogram Ed3 : Tidal (eq disc 1 and 2) 2021
Spectrogram Ed3 : Tidal (eq disc 3 and 4) 2021

For the Ed4 Dolby Atmos Binaurel, we find a cutoff frequency at 20 kHz (yellow arrow) and no signal above represented by a black band (white arrow).

Spectrogram Ed4 : Amazon Dolby Atmos Binural (eq disc 1 and 2) 2021
Spectrogram Ed4 : Amazon Dolby Atmos Binural (eq disc 3 and 4) 2021

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed1 : Vinyl ref b0034422-1 – 2021

Very nice vinyl edition in 45 rpm with a good quality of pressing where a reduced surface noise.
The vinyl is dynamic with a better representation of the voice and of the spatialization compared to the digitally compressed passages (Ed2 and Ed3).
The sound is softer than on the digital versions, in correlation with the spectrum which shows a slight and progressive reduction of the highs above 10 kHz.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●o (3.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
    • Surface noise: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “Red” vinyl 24 bits 176.4 kHz :
Sample “Red” Vinyl
Ed2 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2021

The Qobuz version presents a master in 24 bits 96 kHz which is very well exploited, but it is a pity that the loudness war limits the dynamics of the tracks almost between a DR5 and DR7, without this compression, the digital edition would be more detailed and precise.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Red” Streaming Qobuz 24 bits 96 kHz :
Sample “Red” Streaming Qobuz
Ed3 : Streaming Tidal Master – 2021

No surprise with the MQA Tidal version which is similar to the Streaming Qobuz version with the same dynamic range compression problem.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●ooo (2/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3/5)
  • Sample : “Red” Streaming Tidal decoded in PCM 24 bits 96 kHz :
Sample “Red” Streaming Tidal
Ed4 : Streaming Amazon Dolby Atmos Binaural- 2021

The binaural version is made for headphone listening. We find here a different mix, much more open and spatial which gives a better immersion and precision of the music. The counterpart is a rendering that seems less punchy than the stereo version, but with a better separation of the instruments.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●oo (3/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4.5/5)
  • Sample : “Red” Streaming Amazon Dolby Atmos Binaural (for headphone listening) :
Sample “Red” Streaming Amazon Dolby Atmos binaural

Very nice re-recording of the RED Album with a very nice vinyl edition with 4 LP in 45 rpm. The vinyl is more pleasant than the compressed stereo digital versions. For headphone listening, the Dolby Atmos brings another mix that is more enveloping and dynamic than the other versions, allowing it to distinguish itself from the stereo version.

Detail of the ratings :

  • Dynamic :
    1. Significant dynamic compression, DR less than 7
    2. Compression of the present dynamics, DR between 7 and 9.
    3. Correct piece DR >=10
    4. No dynamic compression (DR >12), dynamic rendering
    5. No dynamic compression, high DR and very dynamic sound rendering
  • Spectrum :
    1. Spectrum cut and less than 15 khz
    2. Spectrum cut at 15 khz
    3. Spectrum not conforming to the original and cut (not HD) or original but limited bandwidth (but less than 20 kHz)
    4. Spectrum conforming to the original (but not HD)
    5. Spectrum conforming to the original with HD resolution (higher than 24kHz)
  • Surface noise (only for vinyl):
    1. Continuous audible noise
    2. Audible surface noise except on passages with a high level of noise
    3. Reduced surface noise, barely audible on low level crossings
    4. Low surface noise, very good quality
    5. Very low surface noise, no defects, almost inaudible on the quiet passages (exceptional disc)
  • Restitution :
    1. Low quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments.
    2. Average quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments.
    3. Quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Good record.
    4. High quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Very high level disc.
    5. Maximum quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Exceptional disc.

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